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Donor helps student overcome shared obstacle

April 2, 2012

Donor helps student overcome shared obstacle
With determination and support from Western and the Ronnen Harary Award, Julian Reiche is succeeding at university, despite having a learning disability.

Early in high school, the idea of attending university wasn't in the plans for Julian Reiche because of his learning disability. However, with support and encouragement from his family, friends and a donor to Western, the Dorchester, Ontario native is now a first-year student in the Faculty of Information and Media Studies.

"For a while I thought about getting into construction or picking up a trade but then I realized I was trying to avoid who I am," says Julian, who was diagnosed with his learning disability in Grade 5. "I realized I'd really love to go to university; I love the academics and thinking."

Julian's learning disability makes writing his thoughts on paper difficult, from the mechanics of writing the letters to spelling and grammar. This means it usually takes him twice as long to produce essays compared to his peers.

"Media Information & Technoculture (MIT) allows me to thrive in critical thinking but, being an essay-orientated program, challenges me to accurately express my thoughts outside of tutorials."

Julian uses a computer for taking notes, and builds in more time for completing assignments, while his professors allow him extra time to complete exams. He says without the understanding and support from the university, he couldn't succeed.

Julian is thrilled to receive financial support from someone who understands the challenges of a learning disability.

Ronnen Harary, BA'94, who has dysgraphia, is co-founder and CEO of the one of the largest toy and entertainment companies in the world, Spin Master Toys. In 2009, he created the Ronnen Harary Award. The $5,000 award is given annually to a full-time student with a documented specific learning disability who is entering first-year in any undergraduate program. This award will continue for up to four years provided the recipient maintains a minimum 70 per cent average and full-time status. "

Western is one of the most well-rounded schools in Canada," says Mr. Harary, whose learning disability also makes it difficult for him to write his thoughts down on paper. "Western was very progressive in how they helped students with learning disabilities. I may not have made it through my program without the support I received. "

When you have a learning disability, it requires you to spend more time studying – the time commitment is higher than someone without one. I believe school should be fun too, so my goal with the award is to relieve the work stress so these students can focus on school and on social opportunities."

Mr. Harary says the learning disabilities he and Julian share are not an indication of a lack of intelligence.

"People with learning disabilities are generally more right-brain focused than left brain – which means they are creative and intuitive and see the big picture. We just need to give them a way to express themselves. That is why I wanted to support that type of brilliance – to help some of those students make it through the system like I did and get out into the work force and make an impact."

Julian is determined to graduate in 2014 with an Honors Bachelor degree in MIT. He is interested in looking at how media and social media are used to market to consumers.

He says the scholarship allowed him to live on campus where the services that are so critical to his success are nearby.

"This donation has given me and others a lifeline to focus on our studies and not to worry about how to afford the next tuition payment," says Julian. "I want to thank Mr. Harary so much for understanding the challenges that I face and for being part of my support system and giving me such relief in my life."

This article appeared in the Spring 2012 edition of Impact Western
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